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THE BISHOP OF SALISBURY ON ST. PAUL S VISITING BRITAIN.
Bishop of Salisbury delivered, last year, a discourse before the Royal
Societyof Literature; in which, and the notes to it, his lordship has brought together, with much learned research, the chief facts and arguments which bear upon the question whether St. Paul visited Britain, and founded the original Christian church in this island. As his lordship's highly valuable and interesting paper is in few hands, and is subject to the casualties of detached memoirs, we have thought it would gratify our readers, and afford wider publicity and readier access to his lordship's arguments, to embody the substance of them in our pages.
We begin with transcribing the following testimonies of the Fathers, from the first Century to the seventh, concerning the preaching of the Apostles in the British Islands, and other parts of the West.
Eusebius Demonstr. Evan. 1. iii. c. 5.—They went to the extremities of the earth; some to India, and some, passing over the ocean, to the British Islands.
Cent. I.—Clemens Rom. 1 Ep. ad Cor. § 5. St. Paul preached in the East and in the West, leaving behind him an illustrious record of his faith, having taught the whole world righteousness, and having travelled to the utmost bounds of the West.
Cent. II.—Caius, the Presbyter: Writings, not included in the canon, evidently set forth the martyrdom of St. Peter, and, moreover, St. Paul's going from Rome to Spain.
Tertulitan. adv. Judaos. $ 7.—All the boundaries of Spain, and the different nations of Gaul, and parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans but subject to Christ.
Cent. III.—Hippolytus de XII. Jpostolis. p. 510. St. Paul went as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the Gospel.
Cent. IV.—Athanasius ad Dracont. Ep. T. I., p. 596. He [St. Paul] did not fear to go to Rome and to Spain.
Jerome de Scriptor. Eccles. St. Paul, after his release from his trial before Nero, preached the Gospel also in [various] parts of the West.— Crescens preached the Gospel in Gaul.
Eusebius Eccles. Hist. 1. iii. c. 4. Crescens, being sent to Gaul by him [St. Paul], suffered death for the faith.
Cent. V.—Theodoret. ad 2 Tim. iv. 17. When, in consequence of his appeal to Caesar, he was sent to Rome by Festus, and was acquitted on his defence, he went to Spain, and carried the light of the Gospel to other nations. ^
Christ. Observ. No. 365. 2 R
For the Christian Observer.
Idem ad Psalm, cxvi.—The blessed Apostle St. Paul teaches us, in a few words, to how many nations he carried the sacred doctrines of the Gospel; so that, from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, he fully preached the Gospel of Christ. He went afterwards also to Italy and Spain, and carried salvation to islands which lie in the ocean.
Cent. VI.—Venantius Fort. In Vita S. Martini. St. Paul passed over the ocean to the island of Britain, and to Thule, the extremity of the earth.
Cent. VII.—Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, expressly asserts, that St. Paul visited our island of Britain. (Godwin de Pretsul. p. 8.)
On these testimonies the Bishop of Salisbury writes as follows:—
"The founder of ecclesiastical history says, in the fourth century, that the Gospel was preached in the British islands by some of the Apostles. Eusebius derived the materials of his historical knowledge from records deposited in the library of Jerusalem, provided by the munificence of Constantine, and by Alexander, one of its bishops; a great part of which has long since perished, or lies concealed in libraries, awaiting the successful researches of some indefatigable Mai. In ascertaining, therefore, the credibility of events ascribed to the first century by writers of the fourth, fifth; sixth centuries, or of later periods, even where no contemporary testimony is extant, we must not forget that they may have possessed authorities once known to have been extant, but now lost, or not known to us. When, therefore, we apply this criterion to the testimony of a Latin writer of the sixth century, and to a Greek of the seventh, who assert that St. Paul preached the Gospel in the British Islands, we might not unreasonably allow them the credit of having had adequate and express authority for their assertion, even if no such authority were now extant; for they assert no more than is almost necessarily involved in the general testimony of Eusebius. For if the Gospel was preached, as he affirms, in the British Islands by some of the Apostles, the Apostle of the Gentiles, who was personally commissioned to carry salvation to the ends of the earth, we might venture to conclude must have been one of them. But we are not confined to the probability of this almost unavoidable inference; for when two very learned writers of the fourth and fifth centuries, Jerome and Theodoret, affirm of St. Paul, that, after his release from his first imprisonment at Rome, he preached the Gospel in the west, and went to Italy, and Spain, and other nations, even from ocean to ocean, and carried salvation to islands in the ocean,—we cannot doubt that so circumstantial an account of St. Paul's travels by such writers as Jerome and Theodoret was founded on authentic documents, knowing, as we do, that many historical authorities were extant in their times, which are now lost. Irenseus, who was born before the death of St. John, says the Apostles went to the ends of the earth—tug irtparwv rijc yijc. an expression which the ancients usually applied to the west, as we see by Hesychius's interpretation of Homer's 'irtipara yainc by rnv Svaiv. Irenseus, in his expression taie ireoaruv njc ytic, evidently alluded to the commission which St. Paul and the Apostles received, to carry salvation to the ends of the earth, twe iir^a-ov rijc yijc. (Acts i. 8; xiii. 47.) Another writer of the second century (Tertullian) says, that in his time the Gospel had been preached in the three western provinces, Spain, Gaul, and Britain. 'Hispaniarum omnes termini, et Galliarum diverse nationes, et Britanniarum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita.' (Ado. Iud. c. 7).
"So far nothing seems to be wanting to a full historical proof that St. Paul preached the Gospel in Britain, but the authority of a contemporary witness; and that authority we have in the testimony of Clemens Romanus, Who was the fellow-traveller of St. Paul, and had therefore the best possible means of knowing the truth of what he asserted. Clemens, then, says, in his first and genuine epistle to the Corinthians, that St. Paul was a preacher of the Gospel in the east and in the west, and that he went to the end of the west, txi To rtp/xa rni Zvaiu>g. Such being the direct testimony of Clemens, we have only to ascertain what is meant by the expression To np/ia, and what country in the time of Clemens was called the end of the west. One of the highest Greek grammatical authorities, Hesychius, interprets rcpfia by rcXoc and taxtiTov, the end, the extremity of any thing. We cannot therefore be mistaken in translating To rcpfiu rijc Cvocwc the end, the extremity of the west; nor in applying the expression to Britain, if we recollect that Britain is called by Catullus ultima occidentis insula; and its inhabitants, by Horace, ultimas orbis Britannos. At a later period, Theodoret places Britain ev taxanatc rnc kinrepac, and the most remote from Rome of the three western provinces, Spain, Gaul, and Britain.
"Whether, therefore, we regard the literal testimony of writers of the sixth and seventh centuries, or the circumstantial evidence of the course and direction of St. Paul's travels after his liberation from his first imprisonment at Rome, or the personal testimony of St. Paul's fellow-traveller to the extent of the Apostle's travels in the west, we appear to have every thing necessary to constitute an historical proof that St. Paul preached the Gospel in the British Islands.
"It may not be uninteresting to add, that we possess in the British Museum tie original MS. from which this most valuable monument of Christian antiquity, on which I have been laying so much stress, was first printed; that it is probably a MS. of the fourth or fifth century, being a part of the MS. volume which contains the celebrated Codex Alexandririus; —MSS. which carry with them this additional interest, that they reduce the inquiry into the truth of Christianity to the narrow compass of four centuries from the death of St. John, making us, as it were, contemporaries of Eusebius, and Jerome, and Augustine, in an age not more distant from the first days of Christianity than the reign of Henry VII. from the present time.
"But, to return from this digression, let us submit this historical fact, as I now presume to call St. Paul's preaching in Britain, to what is sometimes found to be a more rigorous criterion than any external evidence; I mean the internal probability and practicability of the fact—its consistency or inconsistency with the character and the commission of the Apostle, and with the public circumstances of the Roman empire in the Apostolic age. In the first place, it must be remembered, that it was predicted by Him who could not be deceived (Matt. xxiv. 14; Mark xiii. 7, 10), that "the Gospel should be preached in all the world" (ouov/jo'tj, the Roman empire), the west as well as the east, " before the destruction of Jerusalem," which happened soon after the martyrdom of St. Paul. How large a share the Apostle of the Gentiles had. in the fulfilment of this prediction, we may judge from the testimony of Scripture. The historian of the Acts of the Apostles (xii. 17) informs us, in the words of St. Paul, that it was his special commission to carry salvation to the ends of the earth; and the purpose of his final commission, when in the west, at Rome, at the close of his first imprisonment, was, 'that the Gospel might be fully preached by him, and that all the Gentiles might hear' (2 Tim. iv. 17). When he was charged with this final commission, he had preached the Gospel very extensively in the east, and had finally taken his leave of those parts. There was nothing in the extent of a journey from Rome to the end of the west to; deter even an ordinary traveller, and still less could it present any impediment to him who laboured more abundantly than the rest of the Apostles; and the state of the Roman empire was singularly favourable to the propagation of the Gospel to the end of the west: for at that time, says Gibbon, ' the public highways, which had been constructed for the use of the legions, opened an easy passage for the Christian missionaries from Damascus to Corinth, and from Italy to the extremity of Spain or Britain.' St. Paul's last journey from Philippi to Jerusalem, A.d. 53, was much more extensive than from Rome to the extremity of Britain."
The Bishop, in reply to a recent remark, that it is illogical to argue that "St. Paul planted Christianity in Britain because he talked of visiting Spain," adds:
"Any one at all conversant with the writings of Bishops Godwin, Usher, and Stillingfleet, must be surprised to see it asserted, in the thirtieth year of the nineteenth century, that the proof of St. Paul's planting Christianity in Britain is grounded, by any writer, solely, or chiefly, on the Apostle's having talked of visiting Spain. If there are other evidences of St. Paul's western travels, besides the intimation of his intended western travels, or the commencement of them in Spain, an objector who suppresses them misleads himself and his unlearned readers. For the sake of truth, therefore, I earnestly recommend to the author of the assertion before quoted to retrace his ecclesiastical and antiquarian studies, and to point out any passage in the writings of Godwin, Usher, and Stillingfleet, or in any more modern writer, in which it is argued that St. Paul planted Christianity in Britain, because he talked of visiting Spain. An Apostle's repeatedly expressed intention of visiting Spain would be, of itself, a strong presumption (even without the testimony of the primitive church, which we possess) that he went there. I certainly know no writer who makes the journey to Spain a proof of St. Paul's journey to Britain. But that he went to Spain, and throughout the West, and to the extremity of the West, and to Britain, is attested by many great authorities of primitive antiquity."
"The advocates of the British church contend for its Apostolical origin, because they have the indisputable testimony of the primitive church for it, and because the proof of such origin, by giving us a personal interest in the preaching and labours of St. Paul, adds strength to our common faith. St. Paul was the founder and father of the Church of Rome, as well as of the Church of Britain; and we may, without scruple, call her an elder sister, though comparatively a late settler in this country—and, in her present state, so changed from her original form, so altered in her principles, so corrupt in her practices, and so heretical in her additions and contradictions to the Scriptures, and to the doctrines of the primitive church, that she has ceased, for many centuries, to be the true catholic church of Christ. 'Quodcunque adversus. veritatem sapit,' says Tertullian; 'hoc erit hseresis, etiam vetus consuetudo.' All Pope Pius's additions to the Nicene Creed, adversus veritatem sapiunt. That church cannot be a true church which decrees false, heretical, and idolatrous doctrines to be necessary to salvation.
'' The British and Saxon churches may be considered as two Christian families, equally descended from St. Paul (the former immediately from the Apostle, the latter through the Church of Rome), having each a distinct succession till they were united, in the reign of Henry I., by the submission of the British church, in the person of Bernard, the first suffragan Bishop of St. David's, to the see of Canterbury. Our claim to perpetuity of succession, through the British church of the first eleven centuries, does not vitiate our succession from the Saxon church of the seventh century. ■ By the Church of England,' says Archbishop Bramhall, ' we understand that church Which was derived in lineal succession from the British, English, and Scottish bishops, and legally established in the days of Edward VI.'— Works, p. 62.
"In denying the supremacy of the Pope, and asserting our own independence—in rejecting the heresies and idolatry of the Church of Rome, and adhering solely to the faith of the primitive church—the una, sola, immobile, et irreformabilis regula fidei, as it is called by Tertullian, the Church of England resumed the faith and government which it had before its subjection to the Pope, and lost nothing of its perpetuity of succession from the Apostles; whether it be traced upwards, from the time of its union with the see of Canterbury, through the British bishops to St. David, who received ordination at Jerusalem (Usher. Britann. Eccles. Antiq. pp. 474, 1128), or through the Saxon bishops to Austin, who was or. dained at Rome. That a Christian church subsisted in these islands, from the days of the Apostles to the beginning of the fourth century, may be demonstrated from the testimony of Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and Gildas; and, as it was an Episcopal church in that century (which is demonstrable from the presence of the British bishops at the general councils of that age), it may be presumed that it was so, in lineal succession, from the beginning: for it is evident, from the most ancient records of Christianity, that no other form of church government but the episcopal was ever known in any period of the primitive church. The only churches which have pretended to an uninterrupted series of bishops are the churches of Jerusalem and of Rome. But there is no reason to doubt the apostolical and episcopal origin and perpetuity of the Syrian and British churches (for the reasons before given), though the most ancient of the national records of their respective countries have been long since lost."
ON THE PRAYER BEFORE SERMON.
Your correspondent (p. 90, of Feb. 1832) has, I think, overlooked the rubrics at the end of the Communion Service, one of which is as follows: "Collects to be said after the offertory when there is no communion, evert/ such day one or more," &c.; another runs thus, "Upon the Sundays and other holy-days (if there be no communion) shall be said all that is appointed at the communion until the end of the general prayer (for the whole state of Christ's church militant here on earth), together with one or more of these collects last before rehearsed, concluding with the blessing." Your correspondent also probably did not refer to the fifty-fifth canon, the title of which is this; "The form of a prayer to be used by all preachers before their sermons." The canon begins as follows: "Before all semtons, lectures, and homilies, the preacher and minister shall move the people to join with them in prayer in this form, or to this effect, as briefly as conveniently they may," &c. and the last words of the canon are these, "always concluding with the Lord's Prayer."
Here it is evident that some discretion is allowed, and that brevity is recommended, but that some prayer is enjoined before the sermon, and the use of the Lord's Prayer is made indispensable. I cannot but think, therefore, that your correspondent will agree with me, that such discretion is rightly exercised in selecting some of the collects at the close of the Communion Service for the prayers before and after sermon; and two of those collects are so appropriate as to have been very generally in use for the purpose. I should go further, and contend that the discretion which is granted fairly warrants our preachers in making use of any other brief